Phillies

Some of my favorite Jim Thome memories

Some of my favorite Jim Thome memories

I am thinking of Jim Thome today.

About his time with the Phillies.

And about his richly deserved election to Baseball's Hall of Fame on Wednesday (see story).

I am thinking of Jim Thome today, and here are a few things I remember most about the humble, goodhearted man who treated everyone well — except, of course, the pitchers who served up his 612 career homers.

• The Phillies wanted Thome badly, wanted him to be the centerpiece of their reawakening and the move into Citizens Bank Park. They spent the fall of 2002 passionately recruiting him. General manager Ed Wade ducked out of Thanksgiving Day preparations with his family to write Thome and his wife, Andrea, a passionate and heartfelt email in which he listed the reasons why he hoped Thome would sign with the Phillies, why he thought Thome would be a good fit with the team and the city. The email, and a six-year, $85 million contract, helped land Thome. But so did this: On the day Thome toured Philadelphia and the construction site that would become Citizens Bank Park, he was greeted with an impromptu pep rally from members of the Local 98 Electricians Union. The workers even presented the free-agent slugger with a cap emblazoned with words Philadelphia Wants Jim Thome. It really touched Thome, a blue-collar guy from Peoria, Illinois, whose dad, Chuck, worked making bulldozers for Caterpillar. Only a small portion of Thome's Hall of Fame career unfolded here in Philadelphia. That organic outpouring from Local 98 helped bring the man to town.

• I will never forget Thome's first spring training with the Phillies in 2003. It was a certifiable event, his every move chronicled by a band of reporters. One quiet morning at Carpenter Complex, Thome was taking batting practice on Robin Roberts Field. Manager Larry Bowa was pitching. Bowa is a great BP pitcher with an amazing knack for putting everything right in a hitter's wheelhouse. With all eyes on him, Thome turned on one of Bowa's perfect serves and drove it high over the right-field fence, so high that it cleared a weed-choked embankment and landed up on the edge of Highway 19, the heavily traveled road that slices through Pinellas County. How far did that ball travel? Intrepid reporter Bob Brookover found out. He borrowed a tape measure from the grounds crew and crawled up the embankment to where the ball landed near a construction site. Five-hundred thirty eight feet. And six inches. 538½ feet. That's more than a tenth of a mile. Wow. Did Jim Thome know how to announce his arrival, or what?

• A decade later and then a veteran near the end of his career, Thome was back with the Phillies in a reserve role in 2012. He hit five homers in 30 games with the Phils that season and two of them remain indelible. On June 13 in Minneapolis, he launched a 466-foot bomb over the centerfield wall. It landed in the concession area next to a stand that sold a local specialty — fried walleye on a stick. Thome was able to retrieve the home run ball, the 606th of his career. "I think it had a walleye stick in it," he joked. Ten days later, Thome hit the last of his 101 homers with the Phillies. It was a pinch-hit, walk-off shot to beat Tampa Bay at Citizens Bank Park. First-year Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon had blown a save in the top of the inning and promised $5,000 to the person who got him off the hook with a game-winning homer. Of course, Thome obliged. And the money was donated to charity.

• My first personal interaction with Thome came in a one-on-one interview not long after he signed with the Phillies. It was right before Christmas 2002. He was a new father, full of curiosity, bliss and wonderment over the arrival of his daughter, Lila. As he talked about the blessings of fatherhood, he asked me if I had kids. I said yes. He looked at me in that earnest way of his and said, "Let me ask you a question: Did your wife breastfeed?" He was always a one-of-a-kind superstar, completely real and down to earth.

• Thome's first and most notable stint in Philadelphia began with celebrations, a 47-homer season and a fourth-place finish in the NL MVP voting in 2003. It ended with much less fanfare. He was hurt in 2005 and Ryan Howard had come up to hit 22 home runs in 88 games to win the National League Rookie of the Year award. While some might have groused about a young player coming up and taking his job, Thome was pure class, a lesson in humility and humanity as he supported Howard. After the season, he was traded to the White Sox. He said he completely understood the move. He talked-up Howard, said he was going to be a star. And he said Philadelphia would always hold a special place in his heart. He said the same thing Wednesday night after learning he'd been elected to the Hall of Fame.

I was thinking about Jim Thome today and these are some of my favorite memories.

Former Phillie Lenny Dykstra arrested again

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AP Images

Former Phillie Lenny Dykstra arrested again

Former Phillies and Mets star Lenny Dykstra has reportedly been arrested in Linden, New Jersey, for threatening an Uber driver. 

The report from NJ.com says the Uber driver claims Dykstra pulled a gun and threatened him when Dykstra wanted to change his destination. 

Dykstra, 55, has been charged with making terroristic threats to go along with drug charges. He has reportedly been released and has a court date in Union County next month. 

Police didn’t find a weapon, but police allege Dykstra was in possession of cocaine, marijuana and ecstasy when he was taken into custody at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. 

The report says the driver alerted the police by honking his horn near police headquarters and then ran from his car. 

Dykstra has a different version of events. 

"The guy went nuclear on me," Dykstra said the New York Daily News. "He f------ kidnapped me and almost killed me going 100 mph. He locked me in his f------ car, and he wouldn't let me out."

Since his playing days, Dykstra has found his fair share of legal trouble. Several years ago, he served six and a half months of a three-year sentence for grand theft auto and filing false claims. 

Dykstra began his career with the Mets but was traded to Philadelphia in 1989 and spent seven full seasons with the Phillies, being named an All-Star three times. He was on that magical team that made it to the World Series in 1993. 

Phillies throw away chance to move into 1st place in NL East

Phillies throw away chance to move into 1st place in NL East

BOX SCORE

If this Phillies team proves to be for real, there will be other chances to move into first place in the National League East. For now, the Phils need to improve some things, most notably their defense.

The Phils have made nine errors in the last five games. They made two of them in the fifth inning Tuesday night and they proved lethal in a 3-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves that denied the Phils entry into first place in the division (see first take).

“We had some plays that we could have made, there’s no doubt about it,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “It’s something that we’re going to stay focused on and work really hard to improve.”

Starting pitcher Vince Velasquez had good enough stuff to strike out nine Braves — including the side with the bases loaded in the fourth — over 4 1/3 innings, but his pitch count was high and he paid the price for a leadoff walk (one of three he issued in the game) in the fifth inning when the Braves parlayed errors by rightfielder Nick Williams and first baseman Carlos Santana into the tie-breaking run.

Santana had a chance to cut down Ozzie Albies at the plate, but his throw sailed over catcher Jorge Alfaro’s head. Later in the game, Alfaro was charged with a passed ball that set up the Braves’ third run. Two of the Braves’ runs were unearned.

Less than two weeks ago, Kapler praised Santana for playing Gold Glove-caliber defense. Lately, however, Santana's defense has slipped badly. He has made errors in four straight games. Three of them have been throwing errors. All have cost the Phillies runs.

“The last four games, I’m throwing bad,” Santana said. “But that happens. I have to keep working hard. I’m not putting pressure on myself. The results are not good but I feel strong mentally. Tomorrow is a new day.”

While Santana has struggled defensively, Rhys Hoskins has struggled offensively. He went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts to fall to .237. He is 10 for 67 (.149) with 27 strikeouts in May.

“It’s just one of those stretches,” Hoskins said. He cited some mechanical flaws that have hurt his timing. “It’s baseball. It’s frustrating, but I think it’s one of those things where if I stick with the process and preparation and drills that make me comfortable in the box, I think it eventually flips the other way.”

The Phils entered the game a half game behind the first-place Braves. Before the game, Kapler said moving into first place for the first time since 2011 “would mean a lot” as a confidence and momentum booster. The loss meant the Phils cannot overtake the Braves in Wednesday’s series finale. But the Phils can still win the series and that would be a positive. In fact, that should always be the goal and the Phils have not been able to do that in three previous series against Atlanta this season.

Jake Arrieta gets the ball Wednesday night.

The Phils will try not to throw it away.